All that remains, p.4
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       All That Remains, p.4

           Patricia Cornwell
 

  "I'm aware of that," I said wearily.

  He opened the ashtray, reminding me what a filthy habit smoking was. If he could cram one more butt in there, it would be a Guinness record.

  "I take it you've heard of Hilda Ozimek, then," he went on.

  "I really don't know much about her, except that I think she lives somewhere in the Carolinas."

  "South Carolina."

  "Is she staying with the Harvey's?"

  "Not anymore," Marino said, turning off the windshield wipers as the sun peeked out from behind clouds. "Wish the damn weather would make up its mind. She went back to South Carolina yesterday. Was flown in and out of Richmond in a private plane, if you can believe that."

  "You mind telling me how anybody knows about it?"

  If I was surprised that Pat Harvey would resort to a psychic, I was even more surprised that she would tell anyone.

  "Good question. I'm just telling you what Benton said when he called. Apparently, Broom Hilda found something in her crystal ball that got Mrs. Harvey mighty upset."

  "What, exactly?"

  "Beats the shit outta me. Benton didn't go into detail."

  I did not inquire further, for discussing Benton Wesley and his tight-lipped ways made me ill at ease. Once he and I had enjoyed working together, our regard for each other respectful and warm. Now I found him distant and I could not help but worry that the way Wesley acted toward me had to do with Mark. When Mark had walked away from me by taking an assignment in Colorado, he had also walked away from Quantico, where he had enjoyed the privileged role of running the FBI National Academy's Legal Training Unit. Wesley had lost his colleague and companion, and in his mind it was probably my fault. The bond between male friends can be stronger than marriage, and brothers of the bad more loyal to each other than lovers.

  A half hour later Marino turned off the highway, and soon after I lost track of the lefts and rights he took on rural routes that led us deeper into the country. Though I had met with Wesley many times in the past, it had always been at my office or his. I had never been invited to his house, located in the picturesque setting of Virginia farmland and forests, pastures surrounded by white fences, and barns and homes set back far from the roads.

  When we turned into his subdivision, we began to pass long driveways leading to large modern houses on generous lots, with European sedans parked before two and three-car garages.

  "I didn't realize there were Washington bedroom communities this close to Richmond," I commented.

  "What? You've lived around here for four, five years and never heard of northern aggression?"

  "If you were born in Miami, the Civil War isn't exactly foremost on your mind," I replied.

  "I guess not. Hell, Miami ain't even in this country.

  Any place where they got to vote on whether English is the official language don't belong in the United States."

  Marino's digs about my birthplace were nothing new.

  Slowing down as he turned into a gravel drive, he said, "Not a bad crib, huh? Guess the feds pay a little better than the city."

  The house was shingle style with a fieldstone foundation and projecting bay windows. Rosebushes lined the front, east, and west wings shaded by old magnolias and oaks. As we got out, I began to look for clues that might give me more insight into Benton Wesley's private life. A basketball hoop was above the garage door, and near a woodpile covered with plastic was a red rider mower sprayed with cut grass. Beyond, I could see a spacious backyard impeccably landscaped with flower beds, azaleas, and fruit trees. Several chairs were arranged close together near a gas grill, and I envisioned Wesley and his wife having drinks and cooking steaks on leisurely summer nights.

  Marino rang the bell. It was Wesley's wife who opened the door. She introduced herself as Connie.

  "Ben went upstairs for a minute," she said, smiling, as she led us into a living room with wide windows, a large fireplace, and rustic furniture. I had never heard Wesley referred to as "Ben" before. Nor had I ever met his wife. She appeared to be in her mid-forties, an attractive brunette with hazel eyes so light they were almost yellow, and sharp features very much like her husband's. There was a gentleness about her, a quiet reserve suggesting strength of character and tenderness. The guarded Benton Wesley I knew, no doubt, was a very different man at home, and I wondered how familiar Connie was with the details of his profession.

  "Will you have a beer, Pete?" she asked.

  He settled into a rocking chair. "Looks like I'm the designated driver. Better stick to coffee."

  "Kay, what may I get for you?"

  "Coffee would be fine," I replied. "If it's no trouble."

  "I'm so glad to finally meet you," she added sincerely. "Ben's spoken of you for years. He regards you very highly."

  "Thank you."

  The compliment disconcerted me, and what she said next came as a shock.

  "When we saw Mark last, I made him promise to bring you to dinner next time he comes to Quantico."

  "That's very kind," I said, managing a smile. Clearly, Wesley did not tell her everything, and the idea that Mark might have been in Virginia recently without so much as calling me was almost more than I could bear.

  When she left us for the kitchen, Marino asked, "You heard from him lately?"

  "Denver's beautiful," I replied evasively.

  "It's a bitch, you want my opinion. They bring him in from deep cover, hole him up in Quantico for a while. Next thing, they're sending his ass out west to work on something he can't tell nobody about. Just one more reason why you couldn't pay me enough to sign on with the Bureau."

  I did not respond.

  He went on, "The hell with your personal life. It's like they say, 'If Hoover wanted you to have a wife and kids, he would've issued them with your badge.'" "Hoover was a long time ago," I said, staring out at trees churning in the wind. It looked like it was about to rain again, this time seriously.

  "Maybe so. But you still ain't got a life of your own."

  "I'm not sure any of us do, Marino."

  "That's the damn truth," he muttered under his breath.

  Footsteps sounded and then Wesley walked in, still in suit and tie, gray trousers and starched white shirt slightly wrinkled. He seemed tired and tense as he asked if we had been offered drinks.

  "Connie's taking care of us," I said.

  Lowering himself into a chair, he glanced at his watch. "We'll eat in about an hour."

  He clasped his hands in his lap.

  "Haven't heard shit from Morrell," Marino started in.

  "I'm afraid there are no new developments. Nothing hopeful," Wesley replied.

  "Didn't assume there was. I'm just telling you that I ain't heard from Morrell."

  Marino's face was expressionless, but I could sense his resentment. Though he had yet to voice any complaints to me, I suspected that he was feeling like a quarterback sitting out the season on the bench. He had always enjoyed a good rapport with detectives from other jurisdictions, and that, frankly, had been one of the strengths of VICAP's efforts in Virginia. Then the missing couple cases had begun. Investigators were no longer talking to each other. They weren't talking to Marino, and they weren't talking to me.

  "Local efforts have been halted," Wesley informed him. "We didn't get any farther than the eastbound rest stop where the dog lost the scent. Only other thing to turn up is a receipt found inside the Jeep. It appears that Deborah and Fred stopped off at a Seven-Eleven after leaving the Harvey house in Richmond. They bought a six-pack of Pepsi and a couple other items."

  "Then it's been checked out," Marino said, testily.

  "The clerk on duty at the time has been located. She remembers them coming in. Apparently, this was shortly after nine P.M."

  "And they was alone?"

  Marino inquired.

  "It would seem so. No one else came in with them, and if there was someone waiting for them inside the Jeep, there was no evidence, based on their demeanor, to suggest that anythin
g was wrong."

  "Where is this Seven-Eleven located?" I asked.

  "Approximately five miles west of the rest stop where the Jeep was found," Wesley replied.

  "You said they bought a few other items," I said. "Can you be more specific?"

  "I was getting to that;" Wesley said. "Deborah Harvey bought a box of Tampax. She asked if she could use a bathroom, and was told it was against policy. The clerk said she directed them to the eastbound rest stop on Sixty-four."

  "Where the dog lost the scent," Marino said, frowning as if confused. "Versus where the Jeep was found."

  "That's right," Wesley replied.

  "What about the Pepsi they bought?"

  I asked.. "Did you find it?"

  "Six cans of Pepsi were in the ice chest when the police went through the jeep."

  He paused as his wife appeared with our coffee and a glass of iced tea for him. She served us in gracious silence, then was gone. Connie Wesley was practiced at being unobtrusive.

  "You're thinking they hit the rest stop so Deborah could take care of her problem, and that's where they met up with the squirrel who took them out," Marino interpolated.

  "We don't know what happened to them," Wesley reminded us. "There are a lot of scenarios we need to consider."

  "Such as?"

  Marino was still frowning.

  "Abduction."

  "As in kidnapping?"

  Marino was blatantly skeptical.

  "You have to remember who Deborah's mother is."

  "Yeah, I know. Mrs. Got-Rocks-the-Drug-Czar who got sworn in because the President wanted to give the women's movement something to chew on."

  "Pete," Wesley said calmly, "I don't think it wise to dismiss her as a plutocratic figurehead or token female appointee. Though the position sounds more powerful than it really is because it was never given Cabinet status, Pat Harvey does answer directly to the President. She does, in fact, coordinate all federal agencies in the war against drug crimes."

  "Not to mention her track record when she was a U.S. attorney," I added. "She was a strong supporter of the White House's efforts to make drug-related murders and attempted murders punishable by death. And she was quite vocal about it."

  "Her and a hundred other politicians," Marino said. "Maybe I'd be more concerned if she was one of these liberals wanting to legalize the shit. Then I have to wonder about some right-wing Moral Majority type who thinks God's told him to snatch Pat Harvey's kid."

  "She's been very aggressive," Wesley said, "succeeded in getting convictions on some of the worst in the lot, has been instrumental in getting important bills passed, has withstood death threats, and several years ago even had her car bombed - " "Yeah, an unoccupied Jag parked at the country club. And it made her a hero," Marino interrupted.

  "My point," Wesley went on patiently, "is that she's made her share of enemies, especially when it comes to the efforts she's directed at various charities."

  "I've read something about that," I said, trying to recall the details.

  "What the public knows at present is just a scratch on the surface," Wesley said. "Her latest efforts have been directed at ACTMAD. The American Coalition of Tough Mothers Against Drugs."

  "You gotta be kidding," Marino said. "That's like saying UNICEF's dirty."

  I did not volunteer that I sent money to ACTMAD every year and considered myself an enthusiastic supporter.

  Wesley went on, "Mrs. Harvey has been gathering, evidence to prove that ACTMAD has been serving as a front for a drug cartel and other illegal activities in Central America."

  "Geez," Marino said shaking his head. "Good thing I don't give a dime to nobody except the FOP."

  "Deborah's and Fred's disappearance is perplexing because it seems connected to the other four couples," Wesley said. "But this could also be deliberate, someone's attempt to make us assume there is a link, when in fact there may not be. We may be dealing with a serial killer. We may be dealing with something else. Whatever the case, we want to work this as quietly as possible."

  So I guess what you're waiting for now is a ransom or something, huh?" Marino said.

  "You know, some Central American thugs will return Deborah to her for a price."

  "I don't think that's going to happen, Pete."

  Wesley replied: "It may be worse than that. Pat Harvey is due to testify in a congressional hearing early next year - and again, this all has to do with the illegitimate charities. There isn't anything much worse that could have happened right now than to have her daughter disappear."

  My stomach knotted at the thought. Professionally, Pat Harvey did not seem particularly vulnerable, having enjoyed a spotless reputation throughout her career. But she was also a mother. The welfare of her children would be more precious to her than her own life her family was her Achilles' heel.

  "We can't dismiss the possibility, of political kidnapping," Wesley remark, staring out at the yard thrashed by the wind.

  Wesley had a family, too. The nightmare was that a crime family boss, a murderer, someone Wesley had been instrumental in bringing down would go after Wesley's wife or children. He lad a sophisticated burglar alarm system in tic house and an intercom outside the front door. He had chosen to live in the far-removed setting of the Virginia countryside, telephone number unlisted, address never given to reporters or even to most of his colleagues and acquaintances. Until today, even I had not known where he lived, but had assumed his home was closer to Quantico, perhaps in McLean or Alexandria.

  Wesley said, "I'm sure Marino's mentioned to you this business about Hilda 0zimek."

  I nodded. "Is she genuine?"

  'The Bureau has used her on a number of occasions, though we don't like to admit it. Her gift, power, whatever you want to call it, is quite genuine. Don't ask me to explain. This sort of phenomenon goes beyond my immediate experience. I can tell you, however; that on one occasion she helped us locate a Bureau plane that had gone down in the mountains of West Virginia. She also predated Sadat's assassination, and we might have had a little more forewarning about the attempt on Reagan had we listened to her words more carefully".

  "You're not going to tell me she predicted Reagans shooting," Marino said.

  "Almost the day. We didn't pass along what she'd said. Didn't, well, take it seriously, I suppose. That was our mistake, weird as it may seem. Ever since, whenever she says anything, the Secret Service wants to know."

  "The Secret Service reading horoscopes, too?" Marino asked.

  "I believe that Hilda Ozimek would consider horoscopes rather generic. And as far as I know, she doesn't read palms," Wesley said pointedly.

  "How did Mrs. Harvey find out about her?" I asked.

  "Possibly from someone within the Justice Department," Wesley said. "In any event, she flew the psychic to Richmond on Friday and apparently was told a number of things that have succeeded in making her... well, let's just say that I'm viewing Mrs. Harvey as a loose cannon. I'm concerned that her activities may prove to do a lot more harm than good."

  "What exactly did this psychic tell her?" I wanted to know.

  Wesley looked levelly at me and replied, "I really can't go into that. Not now."

  "But she discussed it with you?"

  I inquired. "Pat Harvey volunteered to you that she had resorted to a psychic?"

  "I'm not at liberty to discuss it, Kay," Wesley said, and the three of us were silent for a moment.

  It went through my mind that Mrs. Harvey had not divulged this information to Wesley. He had found out in some other way.

  "I don't know," Marino finally said. "Could be a random thing. I don't want to count that out" "We can't count anything out," Wesley said firmly.

  "It's been going on for two and a half years, Benton," I said.

  "Yeah," Marino said. "A friggin' long time. Still strikes me as the work of some squirrel out there who fixes on couples, a jealousy-type thing because he's a loser, can't have relationships and hates other people who can."

&nbs
p; "Certainly that's one strong possibility. Someone who routinely cruises around looking for young couples. He may frequent lovers' lanes, rest stops, the watering holes where kids park. He may go through a lot of dry runs before he strikes, then replay the homicides for months before the urge to kill again becomes irresistible and the perfect opportunity presents itself. It may be coincidence - Deborah Harvey and Fred Cheney may simply have been in the wrong place at the wrong time."

  "I'm not aware there's evidence to suggest that any of the couples were parking, engaged in sexual activity, when they met up with an assailant," I pointed out.

 

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